By Maya Bhushan
Panaji, May 22 (SocialNews.XYZ) Trust a Goa beach, even a lesser known one, to make ripples even amidst the ongoing curfew and the surge of Covid-19 cases in Goa.
The construction of a ‘retaining wall’ along North Goa’s Vainguinim beach by the promoters of an adjoining five star resort has raised the hackles of the civil society, which has called the wall illegal, even as the hospitality group, Fomento Resorts and Hotels Limited, has maintained that the wall is being built in its own property and with permissions from the state government’s Water Resources department.
The issue erupted after local resident uploaded photos of a JCB being used on the beach for the construction of the wall last month.
While officials of the local village and the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority have inspected the construction site, local residents as well as green activists have questioned the inability of the BJP-led coalition government in Goa to stop the construction of the wall, calling it a violation and encroachment of public property, even as the Authority has issued a show cause notice to the hotel management.
“…there is a concrete wall being built without permission in spite of many representations being made to collector, flying squad, GCZMA. Is the lockdown to keep people out of the way so that private commercial enterprises in cohorts with the local body can illegally build or operate?” says environmentalist Tallulah D’Silva.
“All this has been happening while Goa is under Covid pandemic curfew. The social media is filled with photographs and video reports of what is happening at the beach, day and night. At site, the work continues without any fear of interference,” the state’s top green NGO, Goa Foundation also said in a statement.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has extended the ongoing Covid-linked curfew to May 31.
The Vainguinim beach is relatively off the mainstream tourist circuit and lies in close proximity to the Dona Paula jetty and is popular among locals as a day-picnic spot.
An online petition ‘Save Vainguinim Beach’, demanding the stoppage of the construction work has seen 4,459 signatories in quick time.
“While Goa still recovers from cyclone Tauktae. A hotel at Vainguinim Beach Goa continues to construct a concrete slab along the entire high tide line on a public beach!” the petition states.
“For all of you who live, travel or have moved here during the pandemic, we welcome you with open arms and hope you stand with us to save one of the very reasons you love Goa so much, OUR BEACHES. This maybe a small local beach today but what happens when it’s used as a precedent by hotels to build structures illegally on public beaches? Think about it! Thus could happen at a beach close to YOU, next!” the petition adds.
When asked, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said that the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority was “examining the matter”.
Reacting to the criticism, Fomento Resorts and Hotels Limited has issued a public statement claiming that the construction work was being carried out after consulting a government agency.
“Fomento Resorts and Hotels Limited has undertaken only repair work on the retaining wall in thier own property to prevent further erosion of the beach and restore damage from heavy rains over the past two years,” the statement said.
“We have acquired all requisite permissions and began work after consulting the Water Resources department, Government of Goa. Fomento has always been committed to environmental preservation and will continue to protect and preserve Goa’s natural resources and biodiversity,” it added.